Train Smarter Not Harder – The Facts About Supercompensation

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April 17, 2018

In this blog post we will go through how to structure a training week in the most efficient way possible as well as explaining the very important concept that is supercompensation!

More and more people are heading into the gym these days with a similar goal, whether that be to increase muscle mass, increase strength levels or to lose fat mass. Although these people are doing a great thing, many may actually be spending more time in the gym and working harder than they need to! By training smarter you can decrease the amount of time spent in the gym while decreasing your risk of injury and reaching your goal faster.

Understanding supercompensation is the key to all of this! Basically, everyone has a baseline strength level. When we are training we are breaking down portions of our muscles and creating a stimulus for muscle growth. After this initial stimulus our strength levels decrease below baseline while they are recovering. After a period of time, our muscle tissue recovers and these strength levels will increase to levels above baseline. This is called supercompensation. It is at this point that we should stimulate this muscle group again via resistance training to become stronger. See the graph below.

Supercompensationimage from http://primalstrengthcamp.com/supercompensation-how-training-frequency-and-intensity-can-make-or-break-your-gains/

Timing is the most important component of supercompensation. If we wait too long to stimulate the target muscle group our strength levels will drop back to baseline and we lose the benefit of supercompensation and achieve minimal strength gains. If we stimulate the target muscle group again too soon we may not have allowed it enough time to recover and therefore we will not make adaptations to strength as efficiently.

Most research has told us that after a strength/resistance training workout 40-72 hours is the window in which to achieve greatest supercompensation. This window will differ from person to person and will also depend on the intensity of the workout. This being said, it shows us that a typical ‘body building split’ – which includes workouts such as back and bi’s, legs, chest and tri’s etc – will not allow us to utilise the principle of supercompensation at all. An effective 14 day micro-cycle can be seen below.

Day Workout
1 Upper
2 Lower
3
4 Upper
5 Lower
6
7 Upper
8 Lower
9
10 Upper
11 Lower
12
13 Upper
14 Lower

 

Scheduling your training sessions as outlined above can allow you to achieve your goals sooner while spending less time in the gym. It will decrease your risk of injury as there is less of a chance of overloading certain muscle groups. Remember – aim to complete an equal amount of pulling movements (think rows, pulldowns and deadlifts) as pushing movements (think bench press, shoulder press and squats). Rest days can be spent completing other physical activities or working other qualities of fitness such as aerobic capacity or endurance. These days could also include some light mobility/flexibility drills or could be used for additional workouts for other smaller target areas such as arms or calves. Train smarter and your body will thank you for it!